Waterloo Regional Council Approves LRT Line 9-2

Congratulations to our neighbours in Kitchener-Waterloo for embracing an LRT line in their city.  Unlike Toronto, with a would-be Mayoral dynasty whose grasp of transit and municipal finance can be breathtakingly mean and shortsighted, K-W has decided to proceed with a rail spine for its transit network.

Now is the time for Queen’s Park to accelerate support for LRT in Mississauga and Hamilton.  Get off the pot and show people what surface rail transit can do.

Read details in The Record.

More info on the Region of Waterloo site.

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58 Responses to Waterloo Regional Council Approves LRT Line 9-2

  1. Carl j Searby says:

    Congratulations Kitchener.
    Obviously you don’t have a short sighted mayor who thinks nothing of wasting thousands of dollars already spent on planning/ environmental assesments.

    Of course I realize that mayor Ford will just brush aside any great achievements made in the LRT world outside of Toronto.

    Maybe we should send him south to review the recent LRT funding for cities in the USA ….and hope he stays down there (sorry fellow Americans).

  2. James Bow says:

    Thanks. We really got to thank the grassroots efforts of TriTAG.ca, which did a heck of a lot of legwork, talked to a lot of people, and organized two rallies in order to bolster support for the LRT option. I think that, in the end, they really made a difference.

    Now to get shovels into the ground!

  3. M. Briganti says:

    Even a dyed-in-the-wood subway “big-got” wouldn’t oppose LRT in small cities like Kitchener-Waterloo, Hamilton, or Mississauga. That’s not what the debate in Toronto or on Eglinton is all about, and you know it.

    Besides, is it really all that different? What would you make of this?

    Too subway-ish for median street rail?

    Steve: The built form of cities does not magically change at the border of the 416. Do you honestly expect me to think Hurontario is different from Finch or Sheppard, or the west end of Eglinton?

    As for the South Shore, just go to Guelph where trains trundle down a sidestreet to get out of town, an area where GO plans to double track the on-street trackage and, eventually, electrify.

  4. Matt G says:

    This is a dream day for me. I grew up in K-W and spent countless childhood hours drawing lines on maps and envisioning riding rails through my home town. At the age of eight, I dreamt those rails under ground. Silly things like infrastructure costs and demand projections hadn’t yet crept into my reasoning. By the age of ten, I’d discovered LRT and adjusted my transit fantasies accordingly. In the intervening twenty years, I’ve been told by more than a few people that it is a crazy, impractical dream that would never be built and was not worth the effort of considering. Today, I stand victorious along with all of the other dreaming eight years drawing lines on maps.

    As for Mr Ford, I look forward to the day when he grows up and starts thinking like a ten year old.

  5. Isaac Morland says:

    That South Shore installation is great. I remember from my childhood noticing the on-street trackage on Queen’s Quay in Toronto and I wish that Redpath still had a rail connection. Around here we are far too afraid of any interaction between rail and non-rail traffic (not to mention light vs. heavy rail).

    Slight correction re: Guelph, assuming you’re talking about Kent St. As can be seen on Google Maps, there is no street running at that location, although it does feel like street running when looking out the window of a train.

    Also the line is already double-tracked through downtown Guelph, although I have no idea the condition of the second track — for all I know it could need complete rebuilding to be used regularly.

    Steve: Right you are. I’ve ridden that track many times, but somehow it always felt like a single track line, possibly because we were always on the same (north) track and never passed a train going the other way.

  6. Isaac Morland says:

    Forgot to say: this is a happy day for Waterloo Region. Although as someone who lives in the City of Waterloo, it is to this city’s shame that our mayor was one of the two who voted against. And I thought she ran on a “green” platform in 2006.

  7. W. K. Lis says:

    I guess the 2 who voted against wanted a heavy rail subway with all the bells and whistles and density that it requires.

  8. Justin Bernard says:

    Congratulations Kitchener-Waterloo! Enjoy the benefits, and transformational change that surface transit will bring to your city. K-W area moves ahead, while Toronto stalls.

  9. Saurabh says:

    Congrats K-W. Toronto will regret scrapping Transit City.

  10. David M says:

    Currently living in Cambridge, I’ve been keeping up on the updates for this proposal, and I’m glad that the councils have finally agreed to go forward with the plan. I just wish this (or any other LRT line for that matter) could have been completed a couple of years ago to act as an example for Toronto of what LRT can be like.

  11. Mapleson says:

    You’ll still be able to ride your rails underground in Kitchener, the plan has a subway loop for downtown Kitchener (southbound on King, northbound on Charles). I agree with the concept of the Region’s plan, just not with their specific vision. Hopefully, if the project goes over-budget like RIM Park, they won’t spend millions of dollars just to find out why.

    Steve: Hmmm … will there still be a “RIM” after which to name a park by the time the line opens?

  12. OgtheDim says:

    Good to see it pass and nice to see the local paper finally get it right in coming down on the side of something that makes sense. That paper was responsible for killing off the downtown 40 years ago and has been fighting ever since to assuage its guilt.

    Now the question to Hudak should be – will he guarantee the money keeps coming? The Tories want to make inroads in the area, but the most adamantly against the project are already Tory ridings. There is no win for them in opposing this, before the election.

  13. David Arthur says:

    W. K. Lis: Actually, of the two opponents, one of them objected to the cost, and though express buses would be more ‘flexible’. The other is just angry that phase one doesn’t reach into her constituency.

    Mapleson: The plan separates the two directions through central Kitchener (and also in Waterloo, though that’s apparently going to be re-examined) but the tracks are still above-ground, operating at the side of the street. Avoiding the need for tunnelling is part of the reason why the route follows a railway corridor around south-west Kitchener instead of going straight under the Conestoga Parkway.

  14. Neil says:

    Any talk of the “excess” LRTs from the Transit City order being redirected to this project? Or would Toronto rather pay the penalty then have a rolling reminder of its stupidity close by?

    Steve: That’s a question for Queen’s Park as the Transit City cars were ordered by Metrolinx. This begs the question of whether they are a truly attractive car for KW, and whether they might be an “in kind” contribution to the project’s cost.

  15. James Bow says:

    “I guess the 2 who voted against wanted a heavy rail subway with all the bells and whistles and density that it requires.”

    Here’s what I know about the vote, taking what I have to say with a grain of salt as I heard this second-hand and wasn’t at the meeting itself.

    Four councillors, including Regional Chair Ken Seiling and Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig, declined to vote, citing conflicts of interest. Of these four, I believe three had previously expressed support for the proposal, including and especially Ken Seiling. Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig was strongly opposed. He wanted LRT to run the full length of the line from Conestoga Mall in the north to downtown Galt in the south, and thought that Cambridge was getting the short end of the stick. He argued that if Cambridge had to live with BRT/BRT-Lite, then the rest of the region should too.

    I know for sure that nine councillors voted in favour, but I’ve heard conflicting reports about the two who voted against. One of the two was definitely Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran, who cited community opposition that she heard when she campaigned door-to-door. In my personal opinion, I’ve not been impressed with her handling of the whole matter. She wasn’t initially opposed, but clearly got cold feet, and her tactics have tended towards avoiding taking responsibility for making a stand. She advocated for a community referendum on whether or not to build the LRT — a proposal that was shot down overwhelmingly.

    The other ‘nay’ was a Cambridge councillor whose name escapes me at the moment. I’ve heard that she actually voted for the LRT proposal, but voted against the phasing option. So, like Doug Craig, she likes the idea of an LRT, but dislikes the idea of having Cambridge wait for it.

    You have to understand that Cambridge has long felt itself to be the odd man out in the Waterloo Region arrangement. Kitchener and Waterloo are pretty close in their demographics and their outlook such that it’s hard to tell where one city begins and the other ends just by looking at the streetscape alone. Cambridge was formed by provincial fiat. In 1974, the provincial government created the Region of Waterloo and forcibly amalgamated a bunch of smaller towns into the new city. It’s pretty definitively separated from K-W by Highway 401, and its outlook has tended towards that Highway, and east towards Toronto. There’s been some resentment over that forcible amalgamation ever since, and the fact that it doesn’t mesh quite so well with Waterloo Region as either Kitchener or the City of Waterloo. So, delaying the implementation of full LRT operation to downtown Galt was a bit of a hot button issue for them.

  16. James Bow says:

    “You’ll still be able to ride your rails underground in Kitchener, the plan has a subway loop for downtown Kitchener (southbound on King, northbound on Charles).”

    That’s not accurate. The only underground section to be built is a length to get the LRT beneath the CN railway tracks north of Victoria and south of Wellington. Provision will be made for an underground stop there.

    The block of King/Victoria/Duke and the railway tracks have been confirmed as the new site of a transit hub, which will handle many of Kitchener’s buses, as well as intercity buses and VIA and GO Trains. The underground stop will connect with this development. The Region of Waterloo has already spent $6 million to expropriate this land, and the hub should be open in the next few years — possibly at the same time as the LRT.

    The LRT will come to the surface at King and Victoria and proceed around Kitchener’s downtown core at grade. Southbound trains will run via Victoria and Charles, whereas northbound trains coming up from Charles will follow Benton/Frederick and Duke to Francis before returning to King Street.

  17. Sylvan Mably says:

    Just a few additions and corrections to some points mentioned in previous comments.

    There will be no underground portion, unless you include an underpass at the crossing of the GEXR North Mainline in Kitchener. The loop in downtown Kitchener will run along Charles and Duke Streets, one block on either side of King Street (the main street), at street level.

    There has definitely been talk of approaching Metrolinx to see whether they would be interested in selling us their excess Transit City LRVs. I think the odds are pretty good that this will happen. It could be a very good deal for both parties.

    As someone who attended last night’s meeting where the plan was approved, I offer the following additions and clarifications.

    There were five councillors who sat out: Regional Chair Ken Seiling, Kitchener councillor Tom Galloway, North Dumfries mayor Rob Deutschmann, Cambridge mayor Doug Craig, and Cambridge councillor Jone Brewer. The latter was absent because she is recovering from a car accident, and the rest were forced to sit out due to possible conflicts of interest.

    (I emphasize the “possible” because some of the conflicts seem a bit tenuous. Galloway was advised to declare a conflict because his employer, the University of Waterloo, is located next to the route. Others have relatives who own property near the route. I believe that council will be sending a letter to the province asking them to update the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to resolve the ambiguity that has forced so many members of council not to participate.)

    Four of the councillors who sat out would have voted for the plan, and one, Doug Craig, would have voted against it. He has long campaigned for BRT over LRT because it would allow Cambridge to be part of the first phase of construction. A couple of years back, he actually led Cambridge city council to hire a consulting firm to poke holes in the Region’s analysis of LRT vs. BRT and presented a report to Regional Council that (quelle surprise!) argued that BRT would be a better investment. But his voice was thankfully absent last night.

    As for the motion, it was split up into many parts and each part was voted on separately. The selection of LRT as the preferred technology was approved 10-1, with Waterloo mayor Brenda Halloran being the only dissenter. The preferred staging plan, with initial construction of LRT in KW and “adapted BRT” in Cambridge passed 9-2, with Halloran and Cambridge councillor Claudette Millar opposed. Other parts of the motion and various amendments passed 10-1 or 9-2. Halloran voted against every part of the motion, including amendments to reduce the local tax burden by using budget savings from debt retirement and provincial uploading to fund LRT. She insisted that she had heard from her constituents loud and clear that they wanted BRT instead, despite many other councillors saying that the emails they had received ran about 80% in favour of the proposed plan, and opinion polls indicating 50-60% public support for a plan involving rail in some way. Her performance may come back to haunt her during the next municipal election, given a recent poll in which 64% of respondents from Waterloo said they were more likely to vote for a politicians who support plans to build LRT.

    To their credit, at least three councillors who campaigned against the project in October’s election voted in favour of it last night. Todd Cowan, Les Armstrong, and Geoff Lorentz all had changes of heart after speaking with staff and becoming familiar with the project. I was impressed to see that our local politicians — with one notable exception — have kept their minds open and are not allowing ideology to trump smart planning. It was a satisfying victory.

  18. Richard says:

    I cannot wait until this line is open and operating. People in Scarborough and Etobicoke can look at Kitchener-Waterloo with envy and dream of what could have been in Toronto. Of course, those same people in Toronto who voted for a mayor who canceled Transit City won’t blame themselves for a lack of transit improvement, they will blame politicians.

  19. Andrew says:

    An unfortunate coincidence: RIM announced layoffs the day after the LRT was approved. Given that RIM accounts for a huge percentage of the Waterloo Region economy, this is bad news.

    I hope that the LRT project can attract more of a diversity of employers to K-W. Being overly dependent on one employer is risky for a local economy.

  20. James Bow says:

    Thanks for the corrections, Sylvan!

  21. Mark Dowling says:

    It makes sense for Metrolinx to seek to disperse the LRVs if the contract penalties for reducing the order to fit their new Toronto network are onerous. I can’t see why they wouldn’t be suitable per se since this is a clean-sheet-of-paper implementation which in theory should be open to a variety of cars without caveats like wire-free running which introduces proprietary technologies. It would be a sole source contract so no doubt other manufacturers will find willing listeners in opponents of the project.

    As for diversity of employment, a place like Cambridge with its auto sector might have been a good place to have placed an LRV manufacturing line. Instead Thunder Bay, which will probably never see a streetcar run in our lifetimes and which already enjoys lucrative heavy rail and subway contracts, cranks them out 1000km from the nearest LRV customer.

    On Guelph, I noted on a recent trip to Kitchener how decrepit the south track is there, not to mention the short blocks and frequent level crossings west of the station. Google Streetview gives some idea as to the difference in condition between the north (left) and south (right) tracks. While GEXR are being stubborn about improvements to the alignment pleaded for by VIA and now GO, I suppose we’ll see the weeds grow higher still.

  22. Even if there were no penalty to Metrolinx for their LRV order, ordering through them ought to be one of Metrolinx’s reasons for existence. It is highly likely that an entity already is ordering X LRVs would get a better price to add Y LRVs to that order than for some other entity to go it alone with the order of Y.

    Steve: And it saves the overhead of going through a full specification/bidding process.

  23. Michael says:

    Richard,
    I don’t think Scarborough people will be looking at KW with envy.
    The fact of the matter is that the transport needs of Scar are vastly different than those of KW. And what fits KW does not fit Scar.

    As it is the the KW LRT is going to take 39 minutes from Conestoga to Fairview Park Mall, due largely to the in street operation on sections. Compare that to driving which only takes 15 minutes.
    With such long travel times like that, will ridership appear? We will have to see. But this is not rapid transit.

  24. David Arthur says:

    Michael: Yes, if you’re travelling all the way from the southern mall to the northern mall (is this a popular commute?) the car has the advantage in terms of speed. But that’s because it can take highways that bypass the city centre.

    Public transport’s core constituency is the people who are going to one of the two central areas, or between them. In these slower and more congested areas, the trains have the advantage, because they run in reserved lanes and have priority at signals (which Waterloo seems more able to manage properly than Toronto has been).

  25. Michael D says:

    “As it is the the KW LRT is going to take 39 minutes from Conestoga to Fairview Park Mall …Compare that to driving which only takes 15 minutes. … With such long travel times like that, will ridership appear? … But this is not rapid transit.”

    Most people don’t go from one mall / transit terminal to another. Those are just good endpoints for the line, and sure, a direct express bus between the two would be faster than the LRT. It just happens that in between those points, the LRT (and not the highway) is able to connect: the RIM campus and a large technology park, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, uptown Waterloo, Grand River Hospital, and downtown Kitchener — among other things. Between downtown and Fairview Mall (which is surrounded by high residential density) would be 15 minutes. Downtown to uptown would be 15, or to the University of Waterloo would be less than 20 minutes. It would be less than 10 minutes from UW to Conestoga Mall.

    When parking costs both time and money, those are all competitive trip times, which is why the iXpress (the bus that currently travels that corridor) is a very busy and frequently overcrowded route. Average speed (which would be 25 km/h between Conestoga and Fairview) matters less than how much city you are able to reach in a given time.

  26. Michael says:

    I think it matters. This is a central transit corridor and many people will be going long distances, because that is what they currently do. People go to Fairview because it is the largest mall in the region. People from Cambridge to to UofW, etc. These trips have to be made competitive also.

  27. Mikey says:

    Surface road-median LRT is perfectly suited for medium-sized cities such as Kitchener-Waterloo and Mississauga/Brampton but major arteries such as Eglinton and Sheppard Avenues running through or within proximity to some of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in a metropolis quickly approaching three million residents (with another 3 million visitors daily) does not fit that description.

    K-W and Mississauga/Brampton also have superior highway networks with lines accessible to most of the populated areas in those regions. Toronto essentially has only one east-west highway (the Gardiner only goes halfway across the city) and one complete north-south highway. Since NIMBYism/fear of expropriation, divided communities, eyesore complaints prevents the completion of the Allen and the 400/Black Creek to the Gardiner nor the widenng of roadways to acceptable widths (75 metres) wherein surface lines would have minimal impact; the only option left is to tunnel, trench or elevate transit lines.

    These, among other reasons, emphasize the seriousness of building more fully grade-separated mass transit lines crosstown complemented eventually by the DRL. It’s a pity the commuter moving function of mass transit expansion continually gets lumped in with “city-building” aspirations; which distracts or downplays the real issue of moving large volumes of people across the city as quickly as possible with guaranteed frequency and reliability.

  28. Christopher D says:

    Could it just be that when LRT is up and running in places like Kitchener and Hamilton and Mississauga, that Torontonians will see examples of successful transit that is more effective and efficient than buses stuck in stop-and-go traffic and cheaper and easier to build than subway lines?

    We have been sold a false bill of goods; ‘Subways are better than streetcars’ by the mayor. It appears now that he had no idea what he is talking about when it comes out of his mouth, as evidenced by the fact that his dream of turning LRT to a full subway line on Sheppard (and ‘maybe one day’ on Finch) is about to turn into a pumpkin at midnight some day soon.

  29. Michael D says:

    “This is a central transit corridor and many people will be going long distances, because that is what they currently do. … People from Cambridge to to UofW, etc. These trips have to be made competitive also.”

    Sure, they should. But making the LRT fast for long distances would force it out of the most important nodes. A BRT along Conestoga Parkway / Highway 8 would make more sense to compete with trips that use those highways.

    But that said, no, most trips are not that long; average commutes are around 7 km (this includes all modes). There are several stops on the iXpress currently where at least half the bus usually gets off – University of Waterloo, Charles Street Terminal, Fairview Park Mall. Most people are not going halfway across the region on a regular basis.

  30. Richard says:

    Michael, driving to your destination is usually faster than taking public transit in most cases. Just because the LRT, subway or commuter train may not be as fast as driving, it doesn’t mean improvements shouldn’t be made to public transit.

    My commute from Scarborough to work using public transit consistently took 105 minutes. Based on the distance to my destination and the time it took, the bus averaged a speed of 15.35 km/h. Transit City’s LRT’s were supposed to average speeds of 23 km/h, which would cut the trip down to 75 minutes. That is still slower than the 45 minutes it would take to drive but it is a significant improvement for people who rely on or choose to take public transit. It’s a savings of 30 minutes one way or 60 minutes in a day. On top of that light rail has a higher capacity than buses, which theoretically provides a less crowded and more comfortable ride.

    The inner-suburbs have a lower density than parts of the city closer to the downtown core. On top of that, the demand on routes such as Sheppard are complex. During rush hour, riders use the corridor to make long distance commutes. Off-peak hours, the demand on the corridor is local. LRT is faster than buses and has the flexibility to meet the demands of long distance and local commuters.

    Subways are faster than LRT and suit the needs of long distance commuters but do corridors such as Sheppard and Finch have the ridership to warrant such high capacity? Then again, an empty field in Vaughan doesn’t warrant such high capacity.

    A subway extension on Sheppard would be great but it would put the TTC further into the red. The Sheppard subway is a ghost town off-peak hours. On top of that, building every single high capacity line in Scarborough to Scarborough Town Centre (STC), as Ford suggests, doesn’t reduce commuting time because most commuters still have to take long bus rides to get to STC to access the rapid transit lines.

    Transit City placed lines across entire corridors in a large network designed to move people across the city. While the plan is not perfect, it makes more sense than two subways (Eglinton LRT-subway and Sheppard subway) converging at STC. I prefer subways but in Transit City we had a plan to bring rapid transit to 600,000 Torontonians in a few short years (2 years or in 2013 in the case of Sheppard). I’m happy we will be getting a subway line on Eglinton but Sheppard and Finch get no transit improvements only talk of transit improvements. On top of that, the soon to be renovated Scarborough RT will not be extended to Markham and Sheppard as an LRT line.

  31. OgtheDim says:

    In 1973, Kitchener Transit took over from the local PUC’s, the trolley buses down King where ended and we where given a day when everybody could take whatever bus they wanted for free. At the age of 9, I took off alone up and down Ottawa Street on the #3 and then on the #7 all the way up to King and University (with a corn field across the street from WLU) finally heading home to the East End on a #8 Loop bus.

    Things have changed. (On a side note, there is nobody online detailing Waterloo County/Region transit history before GRT, not even an article on wikipedia – somebody really should to give context to decisions.)

    *****

    Is there a study of who takes the #7 line from where to where? The ixpress is busy, from what I’ve seen, but the #7 is busier and would provide the bulk of trips along the LRT.

    I’m also interested in the politics of the proposed express bus service into the LRT indicated in the route map for stage 1. They all seem politically motivated or based on suppositions, not unusual for transit planning in the area.

    Downtown Galt through Downtown Preston
    Hespler past Toyota
    Conestoga College
    Ottawa Street (the Ranger game line?)
    Erb West
    Bridge St. and University Ave.
    And a continued #12 that doesn’t hook up with Fairview

    It looks like what it took to get support was to promise certain councillors an express route.

    Does anybody living there know where those lines came from?

  32. Michael Forest says:

    Mikey: I agree that transit expansion must be driven by the need to efficiently move people around the city, not by attempts at social engineering.

    I don’t agree that the refusal to extend Allen or 400 / Black Creek is NIMBYism; it is in fact common sense. Toronto’s population well exceeds the level at which adequate highway and road capacity can be provided to all private autos. Adding a few highway links would simply shift the gridlock points around the grid, rather than eliminate them. Basically, that would be a waste of public funds that can otherwise be used for transit expansion.

    Steve: Extending the 400 would take out a swath of housing, churches, schools and part of High Park. Extending the Allen would take out chunks of the area west of Forest Hill, part of the Annex, and area now occupied by UofT. It would also dump a pile of traffic onto downtown streets that they cannot handle. All of this has a value, and that value is much higher than someone’s ability to drive from Newmarket to downtown Toronto unhindered. When people talk about road expansion, they treat the area through which these roads would be built, and the areas around them that would be affected, as “free”, but they have a value, and the city would have suffered if those roads had been completed.

  33. Pete says:

    Very rough with many ‘gaps’:

    1888 horse-car railway service
    1895 line electrified
    1910 line double tracked
    1923 single truck Birney cars purchased
    October 1st, 1916 City of Berlin is changed to Kitchener
    May 1st, 1939 Crosstown bus service begins using fleet of Yellow Coaches
    Public Utilities Commission operates these 5 buses
    December 27th, 1946 Streetcar operations ended
    January 1st, 1947 Trolley bus operation begins
    February 1st, 1971 Exact fare
    January 1st, 1973 City of Kitchener takes over transit from Public Utilities Corporation and name is changed to Kitchener Transit
    March 26th, 1973 Trolley bus service ends
    September 1980 Dial-A-Ride ends
    January 1st, 2000 Kitchener Transit & Cambridge Transit become GRT

  34. TTC Passenger says:

    Ontario goes to the polls about 4-5 months from now and it’s anybody’s guess as to whether or not the current government’s going to be tossed out. If it is, the Kitchener-Waterloo LRT might become stillborn if funding from the province through Metrolinx isn’t available unless K-W can figure out a way to finance it themselves if it comes down to that.

    It’s a real shame that finally, for the first time in years, real progress on transit improvement in Toronto got so completely shut down due to a change in government and the same thing may be about to happen on a province-wide scale this fall.

  35. Michael D says:

    “The ixpress is busy, from what I’ve seen, but the #7 is busier and would provide the bulk of trips along the LRT.”

    The 7 is also more frequent than the iXpress, unfortunately, making it not really a fair call to say that the 7 is busier. If the frequencies were reversed, the iXpress would take away much of the 7′s ridership. They both travel mostly the same corridor, apart from the 7′s branching at the ends – which most potential riders have difficulty understanding.

    “I’m also interested in the politics of the proposed express bus service into the LRT indicated in the route map for stage 1. They all seem politically motivated or based on suppositions, not unusual for transit planning in the area. … Does anybody living there know where those lines came from?”

    Yes – they were developed at UW on the basis of data on existing commute patterns; politics has not played any substantial role. Frankly, the express bus network has not been in the limelight much. The idea is to redesign the entire transit network with LRT as the spine and a network of supporting express and local bus routes arranged in a somewhat grid-like fashion.

    “And a continued #12 that doesn’t hook up with Fairview”

    That’s actually the first of those supporting express routes, which will be rolled out in September. The 12 will be realigned to travel entirely along Westmount, and the Fischer-Hallman express will cover Fischer-Hallman Road from Block Line to Columbia Street. K-W has few long north-south corridors, but this will result in three of them (up from just one) having coherent corridor bus service.

  36. David Aldinger says:

    It’s ggod to see that Toronto will no longer be the only city in Ontario with local rail transit except for Ottawa. Let’s hope that Mississauga and Hamilton bring LRT on line and make Ontario the LRT capital of Canada much like California is the LRT capital in the U.S.

  37. Michael Forest says:

    Steve said: “Extending the 400 would take out a swath of housing, churches, schools and part of High Park. Extending the Allen would take out chunks of the area west of Forest Hill, part of the Annex, and area now occupied by UofT. It would also dump a pile of traffic onto downtown streets that they cannot handle. All of this has a value, and that value is much higher than someone’s ability to drive from Newmarket to downtown Toronto unhindered. When people talk about road expansion, they treat the area through which these roads would be built, and the areas around them that would be affected, as “free”, but they have a value, and the city would have suffered if those roads had been completed.”

    I agree with your assessment, and do not support extending Allen or Hwy 400. However, the network capacity argument might be more convincing to the general public than the neighborhood preservation argument. Theoretically, the aforementioned highways could be extended underground without damaging the neighborhoods. That would be hugely expensive, but for people who don’t closely follow the topic, the numerical value of that cost does not say much.

    The network capacity reasoning, on the other hand, can be made pretty obvious: there is no major city with significant car ownership level that does not face gridlock during the rush hours, no matter how many highways it has.

    Steve: An “underground” highway has costs too. Even assuming the tunnel could be built without damage to the neighbourhoods above it, there is the small matter of interchanges. In the original plans for the 400 south and the Spadina/Crosstown, some of the worst effects were at points where the expressways linked to local streets and to each other. This is not just a matter of network capacity.

  38. Robert Wightman says:

    One of the things that killed the Scarborough Expressway was the fact that most of the residents in Guildwood Village realized that any gains from reduced travelling time fo them would soon be eaten up my commuters from Durham using it. This, the feared, would increase the noise level and fumes in their neighbourhood and require a widening of the road. They would rather have their slower commutes and a little more peace.

    If people want to live in the 905 or 519 area then they had better be prepared for longer commute times.

  39. Jacob Louy says:

    Mikey says:

    “Surface road-median LRT is perfectly suited for medium-sized cities such as Kitchener-Waterloo and Mississauga/Brampton but major arteries such as Eglinton and Sheppard Avenues running through or within proximity to some of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in a metropolis quickly approaching three million residents (with another 3 million visitors daily) does not fit that description. ”

    I am sick of this stupid argument subway advocates make in concluding that since Toronto is the largest city in Canada that it needs a subway network. That is by far the shoddiest logic.

    How many times must we tell you subway advocates: Subways are not justified on Sheppard, Finch, or Eglinton (according to the Eglinton EA). And our status as the largest city in Canada alone says nothing about ridership.

    Steve: I will jump in here and observe that if the 3-million people lived on Sheppard Avenue, then we might have a case, but you cannot count the fact that someone lives at, oh, Broadview and Danforth, as justification for a subway on Sheppard. It’s density and demand patterns, not regional population, that drive this decision.

    Here are a few examples of statements (unbacked by any facts or statistics) that make subway advocates wreak of ignorance:

    1. “Sheppard/Eglinton justifies a subway”

    I invite you to look at the EA’s for Sheppard and Eglinton.

    2. “Big cities build subways, not LRT”

    Anyways, Los Angeles is the second largest city in the U.S. (the largest in California), and uses mostly LRT (a significant portion at grade), but not a lot of subways. So stop spewing this garbage.

    Steve: I suppose that Calgary and Edmonton are not “big cities”. More to the point, many cities have a mix of subways and LRT, including hybrid implementations which show a fundamental principle of LRT, its flexibility. And I won’t bother with European examples because we all know that “that kind of city” just wouldn’t work in southern Ontario.

    3. “Subways last longer than LRT”

    Seriously, what the heck does this mean? Which components of subways/LRT are you talking about? Tracks for both technologies last 25 years. Looking at other infrastructure (platforms, stations), there is a lot of subway infrastructure that has no equivalent in surface LRT (escalators, elevators, station booths, etc.), so one can’t compare the longevity of subways and LRT in this way.

    I do have faith that there are subway advocates out there who are much more intelligent than this.

    Steve: The argument about longevity showed up most recently in the bilge of the municipal election from a candidate who now hopes to be elected in a downtown riding. It’s crap for precisely the reason Jacob noted — where the technologies are comparable, the longevity is the same.

    Streetcars last the same length of time as subway cars (about 30 years), and the major problem with age these days is the obsolescence of the electronics. The H4 subway cars are the last we have that still use mechanical controls that, oddly enough, don’t wear out or go obsolete anywhere nearly as quickly as the electronic ones.

    Street trackage has worn out far more quickly than it should have in past decades because it was badly built (I have written about this at length elsewhere). Subway track is renewed regularly (remember those diversions, the times when the line opened late, when it didn’t run at all), but most of this work occurs out of sight because no road construction is needed. The subway signal system is being replaced, and the escalators have almost all gone through one complete replacement, not to mention many major overhauls.

    LRT on the surface does not need all of this infrastructure along with its capital and maintenance costs. The trade off is that the trip is not quite as fast, and the stations are closer together. Total trip time for some trips may actually be shorter when access time is taken into account.

    Yes, I too have faith that there are intelligent subway advocates. I am one of them, although I start from the premise “show me why LRT won’t work here” rather than assuming limitless funding of whatever monument to political ego and engineering triumph happens to be on the table.

  40. OgtheDim says:

    Michael D

    Thanks for the info. Did the Region publish the forecast model based on trips, because I can’t find that info in the documentation nor on WPTI’s website? Sorry, but having worked with planners at UW, I don’t automatically expect expertise to be useful. :-)

    It figures in the push to get the main line that nobody would be talking about the express lines; but if the idea is to create grids to feed the spine, it’s the proper implementation of those feeder lines that will provide the basis for a well used LRT. You don’t want to rig it so people have to use it; however, it would be a good idea to at least give a large swath of the city a chance to get there on an express bus.

    If they want to create a true grid, they’ll have to feed expresses. Local suburban service is not set up to support a grid system, at all. I realise that’s a major conceptual shift for GRT, to move away from bus lines going from suburb to downtown. GRT service still is trying to shoehorn people into where the city travelled in the 50′s. If they did use a true grid system, (as much as you can in two cities not built on grids since 1940) people will get where they want to go, as against being constantly pushed to Charles/Duke Street, which has been the approach since the days before Kitchener Transit. Although Carl Zehr would have a fit, it would probably get more people going downtown, in the long run.

    And, like it or not, once they add the GO service, people will begin to discuss GRT in terms of its potential to make GO service to that area viable. Waterloo Region is a large and complex market to figure out how to work with GO. GO seems to prefer its customers to drive to the trains. Waterloo should probably try to avoid that, if they can.

    There are no direct express routes to the GO hub. I saw an earlier map that fed people from the Highland/Fischer-Hallman area; not sure why that’s gone. Lack of current usage I suppose. But, there is a potential, if a grid is created, for 2/3 of the west side, basically everybody north of the Expressway up to Waterloo to take that route. Surely not everybody in that area wants to only go North South. I’ve gone along the roundabouts up and down Ira Needles and got up to 130 kph along Fischer Hallman ; so I recognise that’s how much of the traffic currently flows, or has been planned to flow. Its a real shame that the obvious east west arterial to the downtown, Victoria Street, has constantly ignored as a potential express service, mainly because not that many people live within 200 metres of it east of Fischer Hallman.

    That, and I also wonder how people expect a person living in the other big suburb area of Block line/Westmount area will get to the GO Station without a car. I’ve taken some of the local buses out there and they are not exactly quick to get you places.

    It just seems the local routes will be expected to handle the bulk of the feeding into the LRT while the express routes are either ones that make sense (the #12) or being implemented to make it look like there is an attempt to feed the LRT.

    People happy with the LRT decision might want to look now to how to get people going on GRT in general. The system needs a serious rethink and this is one of those rare opportunities when it could be possible to make necessary changes.

    Steve: A challenge for KW is that the GO train, as it will exist later this year, is not exactly the centre of the universe. Should a transit system gerrymander itself to serve two trains a day each way with nothing on weekends? By the time the LRT opens, there may be (there damn well should be) better train service, but that still won’t make the station the central demand in the network. This is an example of a general problem in many GO-feeder transit systems, especially those with significant travel demand to places (and times) other than the trains.

  41. Tom says:

    For transit history of KW & Cambridge, try this.

    Steve: That link takes you to what is mainly a fleet list for Grand River Transit, but doesn’t go back into the system’s history.

  42. Michael D says:

    “Did the Region publish the forecast model based on trips, because I can’t find that info in the documentation nor on WPTI’s website?”

    I don’t know whether that data has been published. You could contact them for more details.

    GRT is in the process of redesigning its entire network – new express routes and altered local ones. It’s going to take some years, but they’re doing it a step a time. This fall they are adjusting some of the service on the west side of Kitchener-Waterloo. The plan is to avoid having all routes come downtown, and to use the LRT spine in lieu of a central terminal.

    In the short term, the GO station will be near King & Victoria, which has really good connections on the 7, and which will be getting a new iXpress stop by the time GO trains start running. There will be a temporary parking lot for GO there. In the medium-term that is going to be site of a major multimodal terminal which will definitely have good access from LRT, multiple bus routes, and so on.

    The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG), which I am a part of, will continue advocating for improvements in the bus network – and particularly express buses – that would get more people riding GRT and which will help make LRT more successful.

  43. Pete says:

    Everyone is congratulating Kitchener here. Kitchener used to be a streetcar city.

    Does anyone know why streetcart/ rails were abandoned in the first place?

    Greta history/photos here.

    The (late, I think?) Bill Miller’s excellent site should be a mandatory look-see for all rail/bus fans Southern Ontario (incl TTC).

    Kitchener & Waterloo Street Railway

    Kitchern Public Utilities Commission (Trolley Bus Ops)

    K-W-S-R Car 24 great streetcar photo taken at Kitchener Junction Loop Sept 23, 1944.

  44. M. Briganti says:

    Jacob Louy said …

    [ 1. “Sheppard/Eglinton justifies a subway”
    I invite you to look at the EA’s for Sheppard and Eglinton. ]

    If this bullshit LRT vs. subway threshold had been applied in the past, our subway network today would consist of the original Yonge line between Eglinton and Union, and nothing else. The Bloor-Danforth-University project would have been canned, and Spadina would have been a non-starter. It’s not as simple as density.

    Steve: The TTC itself is responsible for the widespread misunderstanding of density, development and subways. All of the subway network depends on feeder services as well as local traffic. My home station, Broadview, is very busy, but there are only four high rises in walking distance. However, it has two busy streetcar routes to the south, and four bus routes which bring 35 trips per hour into the station from the north. Similarly, Pape is fed by bus routes, while Chester, between the two, is a quiet location entirely fed by walk-in trade from its traditional low-rise neighbourhood. Some stations, notably those downtown, are major destinations in their own right, but these are a minority in the system overall.

    Broadview is one of the busier stations on the BD line, topped only by Islington, Kipling, Kennedy, Spadina, and the two main transfer stations at Yonge and St. George.

  45. John Duncan says:

    Mikey said:

    Toronto essentially has only one east-west highway (the Gardiner only goes halfway across the city) and one complete north-south highway. Since NIMBYism/fear of expropriation, divided communities, eyesore complaints prevents the completion of the Allen and the 400/Black Creek to the Gardiner nor the widening of roadways to acceptable widths (75 metres) wherein surface lines would have minimal impact; the only option left is to tunnel, trench or elevate transit lines.

    75 metre ROW widths? That’s not “acceptable”, that’s pure insanity.

    What on earth do you expect a 75m roadway to look like, and why would you think that’s a good idea anywhere, never mind in an urban environment? That’s a football field and a half wide! We could fit 20 lanes of vehicular traffic in that! It would take elderly people more than a minute and a half just to cross it!

    You talk about minimal impact, but the question is impact on what? That would require the expensive expropriation of all street-facing buildings on both sides of a standard Toronto arterial. And then huge maintenance costs associated with either a sea of grass or asphalt. Assuming the latter, where do you expect all those vehicles to park? What about the pedestrians faced with such a boring, hostile and dangerous environment?

    What possible reason could there be to waste unimaginably huge amounts of money on an extremely high-impact attempt to make this City drastically less liveable? That’s not NIMBYism, it’s just a terrible idea.

    In a 36m ROW, you can comfortably fit sidewalks, boulevards, bike lanes, 4 lanes of traffic, and an LRT; there’s little justification for anything wider than that.

    Steve: The Gardiner is “half a highway” in part because the city is, if not a triangle, then a trapezioid with the eastern end much thinner than the west. We never built the Scarborough expressway because of the damage it would have done ploughing through the city.

    75m is not quite the width of the 401 where it is 16 lanes, and this doesn’t include room for extra lanes at junctions. The idea of another road of these dimensions through the city is completely mad, but if someone thinks it’s the answer to all our problems, try to build one out in the 905 where traffic congestion is a real issue, and try taking it through existing neighbourhoods. NIMBYism is not confined to the corner of Spadina and Bloor.

  46. George Bell says:

    It would be fun to compare the density of stations currently in the system to proposed systems in Ford’s Sheppard line (including potential feeder service) … I feel like we’d get a line of Castle Frank, Bessarion and Ellesmere stations.

  47. On a related note, Mississauga City Council also recently voted to ask the Provincial Government to “fast track” (pardon the pun) the Hurontario LRT, putting it in the “5 years” timeline (rather than the “12-years-to-never” timeline that it is currently sitting on.

    One has to wonder if funding for LRT projects will become an provincial election issue (especially in light of what is happening in Toronto), and if candidates for MPP and Premier are thinking about and preparing for this.

    Sylvan Mably wrote:

    “I emphasize the “possible” because some of the conflicts seem a bit tenuous. Galloway was advised to declare a conflict because his employer, the University of Waterloo, is located next to the route. Others have relatives who own property near the route. I believe that council will be sending a letter to the province asking them to update the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act to resolve the ambiguity that has forced so many members of council not to participate.”

    Would hope that other councillors in other cities would see this as an example of erring on the side of caution and declaring a possible conflict of interest. Other well known councillors and leaders in other towns have certainly not shown this kind of responsibility.

    As for the LRT itself, it will be interesting. I can only hope that other cities will learn from K-W (C) and invest in public transport.

    From what limited information I have read, the Mayor was opposed because (as James said) she probably got those “cold feet” after hearing vocal opposition to tax increases to pay for the LRT. As for the councillors who were supposedly in favour of building a BRT in order to extend the service to Cambridge, they should look at the Provincial Government to get the funding to build the whole line – provided that they promise to redevelop Cambridge and Galt to properly support an LRT line.

    Regards,

    Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

  48. Jacob Louy says:

    Pardon my furthered subway bashing, but I sincerely hope that destroying neighbourhoods and disregarding the needs of individual communities just for the sake of making a transportation network map look good is not the view that most subway advocates take.

    Steve: Sadly, I would only back off to saying “some” subway advocates. Drawing lines on a map is really easy. Understanding where they should be drawn, and what the tradeoffs might be, is quite another matter. During the debate with the Sheppard subway advocates back before Transit City was killed, it became evident that they were hardened Scarberians, and the further west one went in their plan, the less it reflected any knowledge of the city. We have inherited this in Ford’s plan.

  49. OgtheDim says:

    Pete asks:

    “Everyone is congratulating Kitchener here. Kitchener used to be a streetcar city.
    Does anyone know why streetcart/ rails were abandoned in the first place?”

    A car centred culture, including city planning, that hasn’t changed much. Cars were progress – transit was to support the less well off. If people want to understand the depth of car culture, they should go to cities like KW. Yes, there are not as many cars and people as Toronto, but there isn’t much option but to use a car. The attitudes to transit that creates are a lesson for those who think TTC service cuts will just mean more people per vehicle.

    **

    After the 40′s, the Twin Cities were planned around using the Parkway and the major north south’s (it was originally planned to be a complete ring road – imagine the alternate universe). There was nowhere to go that cars didn’t serve better. Until the 90′s, you could go anywhere north of the 401 in 20 minutes in a car. Transit, not so. It took me 45 minutes to get to university in one bus ride from the Stanley Park area and people thought I was crazy. And, I was on the 8 with a bus running every 20 minutes during rush hour. (Toronto people should think about that … if you miss a bus, the amount of time it took for a bus to get to me was the same amount of time it took to get across town – a totally different transit universe)

    That, and transit was pretty much looked at as a service for the needy. In the 50′s and 60′s, transit was Mums to go shopping because Dad had the car. Once people had a second car in the family, transit was designed for poor people, students, seniors, and the young. Successful adults drove cars.

    I’m not sure this culture is going to change much unless gas gets really prohibitive. Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge can continue to plan communities to the west all the way to the Nith without having to think about engineering anything more complex then a roundabout. It’s good to see attempts at building a different type of system. Just not sure how that will work in reality. The density lifestyle, mimicking Toronto mimicking other big cities, is something the Region is sort of trying to ferment, but it won’t be easy to change the car centred attitude. When the condos go up actually on King, then I’ll believe it.

    Thanks for the links BTW. Great stuff on units.

  50. Michael says:

    I really think we need to get off the LRT vs subway debates. As has been said, a city needs a combination of all forms.

    That being said, this decade has been the decade of LRT fad in most cities. And I do think we are going to come back to looking at this decade as having caused some LRT systems that should have been higher order grade separated systems.

    When it comes to debate though, I think we have to sit down and actually look at the one major factor, how long it takes to get riders where they need to go.

    People on Sheppard and in Scarborough (myself included) are against LRT because it offers us no benefit over the current buses. And further to that, no we are not only traveling a couple blocks in each direction, which is the ideology LRT advocates are trying to push on us. We are being told we don’t need rapid transit, because we should not be going downtown, or to North York, or to York University. Our entire life should be within 2 km of our house. And the LRT is seen as a way to cause that to happen as it will take too long to get someone anywhere.

    Back to the debate. People want subways, because it is grade separated and offers true travel time savings.

    If you come to Scarborough with a grade separated LRT plan like the one they have in St. Louis, or in parts of Calgary. People would be all for it. But in the middle of the street LRT that barely gets up to the speed of local car traffic, and that will still take people 60 minutes to get to Yonge Street, is not going to attract people.

    At the end of the day, it is not about what technology LRT advocates or transit fans like. It is about what gets people to where they want to go in a fast, reliable, and competitive manner to the automobile.

    To be honest, I don’t really care if we get LRT or subway out on Sheppard. Give me and most people out here in Scarborough an updated express bus network, that includes super expresses to the Yonge subway and major destinations like Yorkdale and York Uni, and we would be happy.

    In closing, the debate should also not be about here and now. We must build for the future, and like the Toronto of the 1960′s, that means putting subways in areas that may not support it at the moment. However like history in Toronto has shown, subways always attract way more amounts of people in Toronto than thought, and are successful.

    Yes even Sheppard, attracts more people than most subways that are only 6 km long. In fact it attracts more riders than some subway lines that are 20 or 30 km long.

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